August 29, 2020
Three things the Dallas Wings must fix to make the playoffs
Consistency, defensive intensity and finishing are key
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Arike Ogunbowale #24 of the Dallas Wings drives to the basket against the Las Vegas Aces on August 25, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida.
With the postponement of their second bout with the New York Liberty, six games are left on tap in the 2020 season for the Dallas Wings. In this season they’ve seen some stretches of good, even great, but with playoffs looming and the team sitting on the outside looking in, key adjustments must be made.
One singular adjustment that doesn’t need to be made that hasn’t needed tweaking all year, is the mentality to never give up that this team has had instilled since day one.
Brian Agler admires that about his team no matter the record.
“We have a team that plays hard,” Agler told The Next. “We compete, we are trying, I don’t ever question that. We are trying to do the right things out there….You have to go through it, you have to fail, you have to learn from it, you have to watch film and then get better from it. That’s the only way you can do it.”
This condensed season has provided many challenges for Dallas, as well as the rest of the league. The challenge of minimal rest, lack of personal time, significantly less practice time, away from their families and no fans or even virtual ones for that matter. It’s different. It’s an adjustment. With such a young team, the disadvantages may be more significant than the more veteran teams.
It makes a difference, but not all the difference. The game of basketball remains the same. If the Wings venture to make the playoffs, a few things need fixing:
Through 15 games this season, Dallas has lost six games by single digits out of their 10 total losses. Of the six teams in the league with nine or more losses, Dallas ranks second in single digit losses out of their total losses behind only the Connecticut Sun.
More often than not, all signs get pointed to Dallas’ youth when talking losing close games. Though that doesn’t seem to entirely be the case. Is it an issue? Yes. Is it the main source of the problem? No.
Inconsistency and failing to finish games has been more of the Dallas Wings’ problem over the years, as opposed to just being an issue of youth in 2020. It even happened when the team had two veteran superstars in Skylar Diggins-Smith and Liz Cambage with a primarily veteran team back in 2018. In July of 2018, Dallas had a stretch of games where they won seven out of eight games in mid-July and five in a row during that span. They followed that stretch up by losing nine straight games and losing 12 of their last 13 games of the season, including their lone playoff game. Those woes continued in 2019, most notably in the month of July in which Dallas had nine total games and won just one of them.
These issues have come before and during the time in which the team has been young. It’s nothing new. It also came under multiple different coaches as well. The span in which Fred Williams was the coach in 2018, to Taj McWilliams-Franklin and her few games as interim coach later that season and in the Agler era which began last season.
What’s a fix for this? Defense.
Maintain defensive intensity
The Wings have always been able to execute on offense, but not always defensively. As the saying goes, “defense turns into offense.” Though the Wings have been good offensively, they’ve never been great. In part because they are never able to maintain on the defensive end.
In terms of defensive rating, the franchise has never ranked higher than ninth in the league in defensive rating. In fact, this is the worst season since 2016 when the team first arrived in Dallas for defensive rating. They currently sit at 109.4 which ranks ninth in the league, just slight below their 2016 mark in which they posted a 109.9 defensive rating, ranking dead last in the league at the time.
Now here’s where the minimal practice time tells the story on the defensive end. Last season, when Dallas finished with a record of 10-24 and life was normal, they ranked fifth in the league in points allowed (77.4) per game in the league. This season, in the wubble, they rank eighth in points allowed (85.4) with far less practice time to make necessary adjustments like last season.
Regardless of their current record of 5-10, the Wings still very much have a chance to make the playoffs and could even get better than the eight seed if they can truly turn it around. Dallas sits just three games back from the six seed.
If the team can lock in defensively, no matter the circumstances, they can secure a playoff spot and decent seeding come playoff time.
Keep the foot on the gas
Many times in 2020, Dallas has seen great stretches of basketball. Whether those be in great starts or in nice runs throughout the game. One thing have had a problem doing in these scenarios, is not keeping their foot on the gas.
In their most recent matchup with the Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday night, they began the game 6-for-6 from the field and finished quarter one with a lead playing great basketball. Though when quarter two came, the team looked different. Give credit to Vegas as one of the best teams in the league for making the necessary adjustments, but the Wings need to forecast that other teams will make adjustments to counteract what they’re doing. Those adjustments by the Aces led to the Wings being outscored 29-19, giving up just shy of 30 points in the second quarter alone.
If not for that one quarter, which seemed to make all the difference in the game, Dallas could’ve given Vegas its fourth loss of the season. Dallas outscored the Aces in the second half 49-44 and lost by only four points.
Where Dallas should center its focus is to simply win each quarter. Not even to have sights on winning the game, because if you win each quarter of the contest, the wins will come.
In simpler terms, focus on the small victories. Win the turnover battle, be more efficient than your opponent, take better shots, make smarter passes and the puzzle will piece itself together over the course of the game. All of these things are vital and necessary fixes if Dallas looks to make the playoffs.